Orthorexia: The New Eating Disorder


If you’re obsessed with eating healthy, you might be considered in eating disorder territory, according to psychologists and nutritionists who have seen a spike in unhealthy eating obsessions.

Though it’s not officially classified as an eating disorder in the Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, health professionals have claimed to see an increase in patients who want to ingest only healthy food: an obsession known as orthorexia.

Unlike anorexia, which focuses on the amount of food a person eats, orthorexics concentrate on exactly what they eat. Trends like gluten-free and focusing on food origin have pushed people toward the obsessive tendency, according to health experts.

The term was originally coined in 1997 by Dr. Steven Bratman, which means the disorder isn’t simply a word that has popped up alongside food trends. While dedicating yourself to a wholesome diet is certainly beneficial, restricting nutrients can have dangerous physical consequences. Like those who suffer from anorexia, orthorexics often face a number of social situations with anxiety, like going to dinner parties or grocery shopping.

Orthorexia can reportedly be treated through cognitive therapy, which attempts to manage a patient’s feelings so they can change their behavior.

The movement to put orthorexia in the DSM has recently been revived thanks to new research about the disorder.

“The message in the past has mainly been about thinness but there’s been a turn and it’s become more about cleanness and purity,” Sondra Kronberg, nutritionist, said. “Those same people who struggle with compulsion and rigidity in their eating will take that cultural message to an extreme.”

Orthorexia also made news last year when widely-read food blogger Jordan Younger announced she’d been suffering from the eating disorder. Younger self-diagnosed after a friend pointed out her unhealthy obsession with food purity; however, experts argue that she should have been diagnosed professionally, meaning that treatment could be improved if the eating disorder is placed into the DSM.

Source: The Fast Company / Photo Credit: Flickr

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